Modern languages: Spain's shining path

30th May 1997 at 01:00
Caminos 1 By Niobe O'Connor, Ron Wallace and Karen House.Stanley Thornes Pupil's Book, #163;8.99. Teacher's Book, #163;29.99. Resource and Assessment Fil,e #163;80. Cassettes, #163;40. Flashcards, #163;50

Having recently reviewed Aventura and Arriba, two excellent new Spanish beginners' courses, it is a pleasure to assess another, Caminos 1. It is rare for teachers of Spanish at this level to be spoilt for choice, and it is a welcome relief to know that those battling against the odds to champion the cause of Spanish in secondary schools have the support of appealing, relevant and practical courses.

The pupil's book with Caminos 1 has instant eye appeal. It is colourful and packed with photos and comic strips in the de rigueur magazine format. The book is divided into 16 units covering the usual areas: where you live; time; school subjects; health; leisure and so on. It is difficult to be original in a beginners' course - most methods of presenting new structures and vocabulary have been tried - but the style of this book is fun and very modern. There is a delightful sense of humour pitched aptly for pre-pubescent pupils. One example is the listening comprehension in chapter one where a boy and a girl are not present, much to the delight of the rest of the group who assume they're off together somewhere.

The book is peppered with colourful colloquialisms, which render the otherwise very simple, repetitive basic structures and vocabulary of the early units less contrived and more authentic.

In line with the demands of the national curriculum, instructions are all in the target language, but at the end of every four units there is a section called Tctica Lengua which has learning strategies in English. Grammar is dealt with at the end of each unit in a section called Accin Lengua which helps the pupil to understand the patterns of structures. A grammer section in the back of the pupil's book gives simple explanations in English and basic definitions of parts of speech.

The resource and assessment file contains overhead transparencies for introducing and reinforcing new language from the pupil's book as well as worksheets, vocabulary sheets, language practice sheets, homework sheets and so on. The activities in both the pupil's book and the resource file are varied and fun and encourage creativity. Pupils are challenged to read aloud, use dictionaries, invent dialogues, make up poems and learn songs as well as engage in the more conventional exercises.

Music features prominently in this course, and the songs are lively with predominantly South American and rap rhythms and simple lyrics which reinforce the work of the unit.

There are regular formal and informal assessment opportunities, and attainment target levels are mapped in the teacher's book. There are plenty of opportunities in Caminos 1 to develop the introduced language and structures in a fun but highly structured way. The teacher's book contains an exhaustive list of ideas on games, displays and music to make the whole process of learning Spanish enjoyable and meaningful.

Mary O'Sullivan is head of Spanish and Italian in the Department of Modern Languages, University of Hertfordshire

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